Katie Laud is one of the first GCMA members to complete the Diploma in Golf Club Management. After receiving her qualification at the annual general meeting, she talked to Mike Hyde about the challenges, and opportunities, that have arisen from taking it…
What is your role at North Hants?
I have been at North Hants since 2009 and my current role is assistant general manager. This role gives me the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of the club and use the skills I have learned from the Diploma.
What were your motivations for taking the Diploma?
I embarked on the Diploma for career development. I am ambitious and would like to be in charge of my own club in the future and thought a qualification endorsed by the PGA, GCMA and BIGGA would be beneficial. I can honestly say it has been an interesting, engaging and thoroughly worthwhile course. I have not only learned a lot about the golf industry but also a lot about myself as an individual.
It’s taken around 13 months for you to finish. What was the workload like and how did you manage it?
It was quite a daunting process to start with as it has been a long time since I was in education and it is a lot of work on top of a full-time job. But with dedication, commitment and the will to learn I was able to devote the required amount of hours to complete it quickly.
And the club bought into you doing it? North Hants have been incredibly supportive since I started the Diploma. The general manager Rob Climas and the current committee are aware that I wish to develop myself career-wise and they have all been encouraging throughout and allowed me to use the skills I have learned from the Diploma at the club.
Did you have any work time you could dedicate to the Diploma, or was it all done outside?
All of the work completed on the Diploma was done outside of my working hours, except for the initial nine course workshops that I attended at The Belfry. I would say I was doing eight to 10 hours a week on the Diploma.
While you were doing it, did you find you were already applying the concepts you learned in the classroom to your job?
I think this did not really start until Rob Climas started in October 2017. He was very keen to understand what I was learning and how this could benefit North Hants. I have been able to get more involved in certain aspects of the club, for example there is a project on the golf course which, with the knowledge I have learned through the Diploma, the club have allowed me to be heavily involved with, along with the course manager and the course representative on the committee.
What, specifically, did you learn from the Diploma that you were able to apply to that project?
The main area would be my knowledge of course agronomy. With my increased understanding of this area it allowed me to understand the finer details of the project and the reasons behind some of the specific activities. This allowed me to be confident in putting my ideas and suggestions to the committee for consideration. You’ve mentioned the learning but what about the network of
people you got to tap into as well – how valuable was that? This has been extremely valuable. We had a great group of eight people on the first induction for the Diploma and we all got on well. I think it was helpful there were a range of individuals enrolled, some already worked within golf, others were committee members and others were from outside the industry. This ensured that there was a wide range of views and opinions on specific topics.
Of the nine units, what was the most valuable and challenging?
The most challenging was definitely the finance unit but then I probably got the most out of doing that one. I am now much more confident in understanding budgets and accounts. The most valuable and interesting was the golf operations unit, especially the area concerning the course management. Before embarking on the Diploma this was an area that I needed to develop and I feel my knowledge and understanding has now increased and I feel I am more aware of not only what the course manager is doing but why he is doing it.
How does the Diploma fit with your career ambitions, aspirations and development?
Having this qualification will definitely help me with my career aspirations. I am looking to get my first job in golf club management and I am very lucky that North Hants are very supportive of that and doing all they can to help me achieve this.
And to get that buy-in where the club say they will invest directly in you rather than the club directly… Definitely, but you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I might go somewhere else and in the future the manager position at North Hants comes up and I go back. How did you get into golf club management?
Prior to starting at North Hants I had previously worked in the hospitality industry in a number of roles within events. In 2009, I made the decision to combine my business skills and passion for golf and started at North Hants. Eight and a half years on this was definitely the best decision for me.
What is it you love about the role?
I think I just like working in an industry that I am passionate about. I’ve played golf and been a member of a golf club since I was 10 and I just feel very lucky to be able to combine my passion with my career. I really enjoy the variety of my role – no two days are the same. I also enjoy the feeling of satisfaction when an event goes well and you, as a team, have provided top quality service to customers and members.
Are times changing for women in the golf industry?
I think so. In the past the industry has been a very male orientated industry but I think this is slowly beginning to change and more and more women are getting their opportunities. The current GCMA Manager of the Year is a lady, more and more golf clubs have ladies holding senior positions on committees and even a golf club of the stature of Augusta is holding a new sponsored tournament next year targeting women’s golf.
Do you feel more confident going into an interview now after completing the Diploma?
I definitely feel more confident now than before I completed this qualification. It has given me confidence in my abilities and my skills to know that if I was to embark on a golf manager role I could be successful.
Why would you recommend the Diploma to people?
It could look like a daunting prospect… It is a daunting prospect. Obviously, you have got three years to do it but if you dedicate the time and really focus on it you can get it done quicker than that. It has been incredibly valuable for me in learning the skills I was lacking, and certainly for anyone who is an assistant out there, and looking to make the next step up, having a qualification from the GCMA, PGA and BIGGA will be widely acknowledged within the golf industry and will develop them as an individual.
A lot of the Diploma is delivered by Leigh Sear – nothing to do with golf but a small business – how valuable was his outside perspective on the industry?
Lee was an excellent tutor throughout the Diploma and extremely informative and knowledgeable during the workshops. I think, in a way, it helped that he came from outside the golf industry as he could look at aspects of the course from a different point of view.
Does that help when you’ve gone back to your club with ideas?
I was fairly lucky in that the committee and the general manager had bought into what I was doing but, definitely, some things were still a challenge to get across the importance of doing them.